I have noticed, at least in Hollywood, that ‘nice guys finish last.’ I speak of the calm, steadfast man inevitably thrust aside by the heroine in pursuit of someone more ‘exciting.’ An inevitable affair follows, in which her previous fiance or husband is hurt or abandoned, because she sought another. As a woman of fierce opinions, who happens to think the happiness of others should factor into a person’s decisions, I find those women annoying.

Learning about different personalities and Enneagram types has made me a tad more forgiving, in the sense of ‘understanding why’ these women chase after their particular brand of male catnip rather than settle for a ‘boring alternative,’ but ultimately I am still an Enneagram 6. Someone who ‘seeks security.’ To me, the steadfast man has long-term potential, the other one is a temporary buzz but will be gone one day. Lust dies. Love grows.

Last night, I re-watched First Knight, which is a prime example of ‘nice guys finish last.’ But at least the movie has the moral integrity to make Guinevere deeply torn between duty and desire, between her vital need for security and feeling drawn to someone who protects her time and again, even if he does want ‘payment’ for it. I think the comparison between the men in her life is a little one-sided, because in my mind, Lancelot is a turd and King Arthur is magnificent.

Lancelot wins no approval from me, because the first time we meet him in the forest, he reveals he has only one thing on his mind. Sex. Guinevere isn’t having it. He will not take no for an answer, persistently going after her for, at the very least, a kiss, though he wants more. Time and again, he saves her life. Rescues her from evil knights. Helps her escape in the woods. Performs daring feats to get her to like him. Even joins the Knights of the Round Table to be near her. How… um, romantic. If he wasn’t such a creep.

I never liked him. His feats of courage could not erase his bad intentions. Even as a teenager, my eye was always on King Arthur, and not just because Sean Connery plays him. Yes, he is twenty years older than Guinevere, but I did not care. He is generous, kind, benevolent, and willing to protect her kingdom from external threats even if she does not marry him. He has a vision for Camelot and Lancelot, in whom he sees the potential for growth and to ‘find a useful place’ in this world. His one blind spot is why Lancelot is actually around; Arthur loves too generously to think the worst of those he loves, which means he does not notice Lancelot’s passionate interest in his wife. Is he perfect? No. He makes a foolish, vindictive mistake at the end of the film that reveals the depth of his pain at discovering their feelings for each other, but then he repents of it and forgives them both.

As a good man must.

Tristan + Isolde has a similar premise, except this time it is Tristan who is resistant toward his feelings for Isolde, out of respect for her husband, Lord Marc, whom Tristan regards like a father. But their obsessive need for each other is too much to resist and their affair destroys the kingdom. Tristan met and fell in love with Isolde before she arrives to marry Lord Marc. Rather than admit his feelings for her and create a diplomatic ‘problem,’ Tristan merely tries to stay away from her. He fails. Yet another generous, benevolent man, if Lord Marc had known Tristan’s feelings, I suspect he’d have found a way to let them marry while maintaining the diplomatic alliance. Because, at least in this adaptation, that is the kind of man Lord Marc is: a nice guy who wants what is best for those he loves.

You can regard both as ‘cautionary tales’ more than romances, because the films do not shy away from the devastation their lust/love wreaks on those around them, to say nothing of the kingdom. The screenwriters also do not take the lazy route for the audience, in giving the troubled couple an excuse or justification for adultery by making the husband a cruel man. Instead, he is a kind and forgiving one.

But he still finishes ‘last in her heart.’

Just not in mine.

How about you? Are there any stories in which you wish the nice guy had not finished last?